HPE tries to block CEO deposition in DMV IT project lawsuit

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Hewlett Packard Enterprise is fighting the state’s effort to make CEO Meg Whitman give a deposition later this week in the lawsuit over the company’s long-delayed computer project for the Division of Motor Vehicles.

The state’s lawyers served a notice March 10 ordering Whitman, a prominent business leader and one-time candidate for California governor, to come to Providence on Thursday morning to be deposed on videotape in the suit, which is scheduled to go to trial next month.

In a filing late last week, HPE’s lawyers asked R.I. Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein to block the deposition.

Meg Whitman (AP/Richard Drew)

“There is no substantial need to take Ms. Whitman’s deposition,” they wrote in the filing. “She does not possess unique or significant information that is relevant to this case. The proposed deposition is merely a device to disrupt the activities of HPE’s most senior executive, and to harass, or put pressure on, HPE.”

They went on to say that Whitman’s “only arguably relevant act occurred in April 2014,” when she visited Rhode Island to discuss the notoriously troubled project’s status with then-Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s administration.

The state sued HPE last fall after the company threatened to walk off the DMV job if it did not receive more money. Silverstein ordered the company to temporarily continue work while the legal process unfolded, but last month he dealt a blow to the state by denying its request for a preliminary injunction.

Court filings show HPE is also fighting the state’s request for a jury trial.

The effort to replace the DMV’s Reagan-era computer system has dragged on for nearly a decade, having begun under former Gov. Don Carcieri. The state has spent about $13 million on the project so far, but HP Enterprise claims the actual cost is approaching $50 million. State officials say they expect the system will finally be ready to go live this summer, possibly on the 4th of July weekend.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram